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Big Changes More Important Than Small Minds

Check out this article in the Scottsdale Republic showcasing the status quo sycophants of the Scottsdale Unified School District. Here is a link.

What planet do these chastisers of reform live on?

Superintendent Denise Birdwell is rightfully seeking key changes.  What else is she to do?  Accept mediocrity or in some cases tragic outcomes?

Like all school districts Scottsdale is no exception to the funding challenges imposed by conditions in the State of Arizona, both political and economic, over the past decade.  Scottsdale public schools also face potent competition from some of the best charter schools in the country such as BASIS Scottsdale and Great Hearts, as well as a bevy of private schools.

So the choice for Birdwell and the district’s Governing Board is simple:  innovate and improve.  Or wither and die a slow death.

Those who have been slow to adapt to the changing landscape, the educrats of inertia, don’t like the change agent that is Birdwell.  Nowhere is their recalcitrance more repugnant than when it comes to Coronado.  Once a point of pride in southern Scottsdale it’s now an impediment to a continuing renaissance of those neighborhoods.  Graduation rates and academic performance has been poor, to put it mildly.  So Birdwell decided to clean most of the deteriorating house.  Good for her.  And good for the parents and students who will benefit from this brand of leadership.  

If Birdwell can be criticized for anything it’s moving too slowly, but change in the archaic structure of too many public school districts is never easy.  We wish her good fortune.  Properly marketed Scottsdale public schools can find their better way to a better place as the “ultimate choice” in the marketplace.

The braniacs of BASIS are not for everyone.  Nor are the traditions of Great Hearts.  Or the uniforms and religiosity of Notre Dame.

Once upon a time the Scottsdale Unified School District was all that was good and right about its part of the world.  And in some places where turnaround stories like Supai have taken place it still is.  But it can’t be more evangelistic without leaders like Birdwell.

Keep preaching sister.  Keep preaching.

  • LoydEskildson

    Those ‘accomplishments’ did not require Dr. B.’s attention – she should have been working on more important topics, such as boosting pupil achievement across the District. Regardless, I’m hearing that most of those accomplishments were via an outside consulting firm.

  • LoydEskildson

    Strongly disagree. Successful change agents/turnaround leaders quickly implement projects that significantly improve important outcomes within 6 months or less – in this case, that would involve improving pupil achievement, parental satisfaction and revenues, simultaneously. Progress on all three could/should have been accomplished by improving pupil achievement within her first three months. Like Michelle Rhee did in D.C. We’re still waiting.

    Instead, D.B. chose to hide and ignore evidence of declining pupil achievement and external ratings, and has deliberately sidestepped setting/accepting goals to improve pupil achievement.

    As for the ‘Coronado Project,’ its only goal is to have all 2018 seniors apply for college. Idiotic because not all pupils have any interest in college (eg. my oldest son), and many lack the aptitude/preparation. Regardless, Scottsdale needs talented plumbers, electricians, and repairpersons – and they’re usually well-paid. The goals is also insultingly easy – any charismatic educator could accomplish this with a couple of pizza parties and a trip or two to the MetroCenter amusement center and/or WaterWorld.

    The ‘financial headaches’ referenced in the 6/20/17 Board meeting are pocket-change compared to the money D.B. has wasted by not immediately implementing Auditor General recommendations, adding to overheads, and choosing overly expensive and ineffectual remedies (eg. elementary Gifted Programs). In any case, my understanding is that most of the accomplishments were accomplished by a consulting firm, and that NONE of the accomplishments required or should have been led by a superintendent. (She should have been attending to other unrelated and much more significant issues.) Finally, her presentation also failed to include any errors that favored SUSD revenues – thus overstating these supposedly impressive accomplishments.

    Labeling those opposing D.B. as ‘status quo sycophants’ is childish and irresponsible.

    ‘The only thing some schools need is some long ignored support in the form of funding and additional Certified staff.’ That’s just not true – U.S. News/World Rerport data show graduates of EVERY SUSD high-school averaging BELOW THE STATE, NATIONAL AND GLOBAL AVERAGES! D.B. defenders also need to know what they’re talking about – reducing class size has repeatedly been shown to have very, very little impact on pupil achievement, with the possible exception of the first few grades.

    Let’s stop making excuses for D.B.’s lack of accomplishments, bringing a hiring and conflict of interest scandal to SUSD, unnecessarily antagonizing and driving out hundreds of staff (some excellent), and the Board’s sitting quietly like lap dogs as more time and monies are wasted. Time to get rid of all of them.

    P.S.: Edmond, please stop crediting D.B. for ‘making school performance public.’ Reality – she hid that data until I used an FOIA request to force it out. She’s also never addressed falling SAT scores and U.S.News/World Report rankings. And never set any goals for improving pupil achievement.

  • Christine Meyer Schild

    Amen. There are a lot of people who support Dr. Birdwell’s efforts at Coronado High School. These changes were absolutely necessary and couldn’t happen fast enough. Scottsdale has already doomed enough children to mediocrity.

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